Welcome back to part two of my six part series, “Better Know a Ward.” This week: Ward 2 – St. George’s. Located in the northeast corner of the city, Ward 2 pretty much covers everything east of Woolwich and north of Eramosa and Eastview Roads. Amongst its attractions are Riverside Park and Goldie Mill, the oldest saw mill in the city established the same year as Guelph: 1827.
Vicki Beard and Ian Findlay, both elected in 2006, are the councillors responsible for speaking for the residents of Ward 2, which boasts the highest number of long time residents, including seniors and young families, and is home to a lot of Guelph’s post-war development. On the cutting edge of innovation as well, Ward 2 also has the world’s first “Pollination Park,” which lies atop the old Eastview landfill and is a research project commissioned by the University of Guelph for which Beard is an excited and passionate advocate for.
“It’s probably the most established ward in the city in that there’s not a lot of new development,” says Findlay when I meet up with him and Beard at the Cornerstone, downtown. “There are not a lot of infill opportunities either; it’s pretty much built up. There’s a little bit happening on Woodlawn and Victoria, but I would certainly suggest it’s the most stable.”
Stable, except for the fact that Ward 2 is “ground zero” as Findlay describes, for the city’s termite problems, although their number have gone down in the last few years. A repurposed and dedicated city department has been exceptionally helpful in tackling the problem, explains Findlay. “One of the first things we did when we got on council was retain Dr. Tim Myles from the University of Toronto. He’s one of the pre-eminent termite experts in all of Canada.”
Another change that Ward 2 residents have been positive about is the expansion of service on Guelph Transit and the new “Downtown on the 20” schedule. Beard and Findlay say that they’ve heard from poeple a desire to do more for the environment and conservation on a local level, and giving more support and money to buses was a good, first step. “We’re not done fixing transit, but this was a big step, a huge commitment on the part of the city but we’re not suggesting that all the problems are solved yet,” says Findlay. “And we need a strategic transit plan and that’s coming up in the next little while,” added Beard.”
Less pleased, were Ward 2 residents, about their councillors’ votes over the recent proposed expansion of the Wal-Mart at Woolwich and Woodlawn. A vote that both Beard and Findlay say has been mischaracterized. “I did not vote ‘No’ on the Wal-Mart expansion,” says Beard emphatically. She was in favour of the expansion as presented in a city staff report, which called for numerous environmental and energy friendly benchmarks, but what she ended up voting against was the 6&7 Developers plan as presented to council at the July 7 meeting which didn’t include any of those things. “Their answers did not match that report,” she adds.
“A final decision has not been made, I think we need to make that clear,” continues Findlay. “The motion was to approve [the proposal] as was, and that was defeated. We still need to give formal direction to city staff, but this will be coming back to council for further consideration.”
“We represent people in our ward that want that expansion, we see it as a non-issue – it’s going to happen, we want it to happen,” says Beard, who adds that other developers in Guelph have gone out of their way to meet the city’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly alternatives. “We have to get this straight,” adds Beard, “It’s not the developer; it’s how we want the development to happen.”
The vote certainly got people talking which was good news for Ward 2’s biggest act of transparency: the Ward 2 blog maintained by Findlay and contributed to by both councillors. Findlay says the blog serves multiple purposes: not only can he and Beard talk directly to their constituents, and they respond back, but serves as a paper trail, so to speak, in highlighting residents concerns before the council. Plus the blog has a pretty liberal open door policy. “Any letter that comes in, providing that they’re not too personal, I will post,” says Findlay. “Critical: absolutely. But if they start identifying people and getting derogatory then they don’t get posted. I don’t filter it in any other way.”
To keep up-to-date with the goings on in Ward 2, you can visit the blog at http://ward2guelph.wordpress.com/